When you enter in
“Love Thy Neighbor”
by Mark Huey
This week’s Torah reading, Ki-Tavo, continues Moses’ final instructions to the Ancient Israelites, as they are being prepared for entry into the Promised Land. It is in these chapters of Deuteronomy that Moses lists the benefits or blessings of obedience to God, but also details the curses or penalties resulting from disobedience to Him. The very last statement that Moses gives at the end of the reading, succinctly summarizes what he was trying to communicate to his ancient audience:
“So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do” (Deuteronomy 29:8).
When you read and meditate upon our Torah portion, if you want to prosper in all that you do, then it is important to obviously obey God’s commandments. Obedience brings blessings, while disobedience brings curses—or at least some sort of problems. I personally do not know any other way these words can be understood. Whenever I am asked by others why I am Torah obedient, particularly by a Jewish person, I often turn to Deuteronomy ch. 28, read some of the blessings and curses to my questioner, and then ask the following: Why would anyone want to receive the curses of God, when through obedience, the blessings of God will come to the faithful? As the Torah tells us,
“Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings [kol-ha’berakot ha’eileh] will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 28:1-2).
I usually get perplexed looks in response, but most discussions usually stop right there. I feel confident that I have fulfilled my duty of provoking my Jewish brothers and sisters to jealousy for faith in the Messiah (cf. Romans 11:11), as they are forced to recognize that I, as a non-Jew, am doing my best to follow God’s Torah (unlike many of the Christians they may encounter). Some may ask further questions as to why I think all Believers in Yeshua should follow the Torah, when as a “Gentile” some Jews may assert that I only have to follow the so-called Noahide laws. I frequently say that the New Testament asserts that those who belong to the Messiah Yeshua are considered the seed of Abraham, and they are inheritors of the promises God that began with him:
“Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Messiah, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Messiah Yeshua. For all of you who were baptized into Messiah have clothed yourselves with Messiah. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua. And if you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:24-29).
The Apostle Paul’s words to the Believers in Galatia are very clear. The Torah is a pedagogue (Grk. paidagōgos), whose discipline is to lead us to faith in Messiah Yeshua. It is to train us in the rudimentary principles of right and wrong, which are to be instilled in our psyche. When we reach the point of understanding our fallen sin nature, the Torah should then reveal our need for a Divine Savior, who is in fact the telos, meaning the “culmination” (Romans 10:4, TNIV) or “goal” (CJB) of the Law.
It is by faith in the accomplished work of Yeshua at Golgotha (Calvary), that any of us can truly become children of the Most High. As a born again Believer, I know that I have been immersed into the Messiah, and have been covered by His atoning work. Being welcomed and included into the Kingdom of God has nothing to do with one’s ethnicity, societal position, gender, or financial status. It comes by one recognizing himself or herself as a sinner, condemned by God’s Torah, yet requiring redemption by Yeshua’s sacrificial work for us:
“Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE’ [Deuteronomy 21:23]” (Galatians 3:13).
Later in the Apostolic Scriptures, we see how Paul wrote Believers—particularly non-Jewish Believers—in Asia Minor, how all of those who have come to faith in Yeshua the Messiah, are to reckon themselves as a part of the Commonwealth of Israel, and fellow citizens with one another:
“Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in [dogma], so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR [Isaiah 57:19; 52:7; Zechariah 9:10]; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Messiah Yeshua Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:11-22).
Further on, Paul says how “the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Messiah Yeshua through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6), and they are a part of the community of Israel in unity and common cause with the Jewish people. Because of the Messiah’s completed work, a “one new humanity” (Ephesians 2:15, NRSV/CJB) is to surely emerge, a people who are reconciled one to another via the sacrifice of the Messiah for the sins of men and women. As a born again Believer, I am no longer to be considered a stranger or alien to the Commonwealth of Israel, but instead have become a citizen of the Kingdom and a part of God’s household. By belief in the Messiah of Israel, I am fitted together with all others who share my belief as a part of the eternal dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Another analogy Paul uses to describe the relationship, of non-Jewish Believers to the community of Israel, appears in his letter to the Romans, with the example of Israel’s olive tree. The Apostle Paul writes that those of the nations, likened unto wild olive branches, have been grafted in along with the natural, Jewish olive branches of Israel. In Romans ch. 11, Paul describes in great detail what he was largely witnessing regarding the unbelief of many Jews in the mid-First Century. While non-Jewish Believers are to regard themselves as grafted into Israel, they are not at all to be arrogant or despiteful of the Jewish people—and they are to most especially make sure that they are vessels of mercy and grace to them, if they do not know Yeshua!
“If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB. THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS’ [Isaiah 27:9; Jeremiah 31:33-34]. From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LROD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? OR WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN [Isaiah 40:13]? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:16-36).
Paul makes the argument to the non-Jewish Believers in Rome, that they “have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root” (NIV). The inclusion of such people, within the community of Israel, is a part of the eventual redemption of all Israel. It regards the emergence of “the fullness of the Gentiles,” to plērōma tōn ethōn, which among other things relates to people from the nations possessing a “fullness” of a profoundly high spiritual and moral caliber.
How might this involve keeping God’s Torah? While it is absolutely true, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Yeshua” (Romans 8:1), it is also true that “the requirement of the Law [is to] be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4). The Holy Spirit, which is to be poured out upon all flesh (Joel 2:28-32; cf. Acts 2:17), is to supernaturally transcribe God’s Instruction onto the hearts and minds of all of His people (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27; cf. Hebrews 8:7-13; 10:14-18).
I am convinced that no matter when you recognize Yeshua as Savior, you need to follow God’s commandments, as the Holy Spirit transforms your heart and mind and compels you to further obedience. In this week’s Torah portion, we see that Israel is a special possession, from God’s perspective, and thusly this makes all who follow the Messiah of Israel bidden to holiness:
“This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have today declared the LORD to be your God, and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and listen to His voice. The LORD has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments; and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people to the LORD your God, as He has spoken” (Deuteronomy 26:16-19).
Throughout the Scriptures, there is a unique relationship between not only being “a people for his own possession” (RSV), but also a holy and separated people called out to perform God’s special tasks in the Earth. As Ancient Israel was being prepared to receive the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, the Lord called them to this purpose:
“Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine” (Exodus 19:5).
The theme of Israel being God’s special or treasured possession (Heb. segullah) is seen throughout the Tanakh, indicating the relationship that Israel is to have with Him:
- “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6).
- “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 14:2).
- “For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His own possession” (Psalm 135:4).
Allow me to encourage each of you, that if you truly consider yourself to be a part of the Commonwealth of Israel, redeemed by faith in Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), to take your privileged position seriously. As Paul wrote to Titus, the Lord “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14).
I believe that any Believer who is honest wants to receive the blessings of God, and not be cursed by Him—or at the very least be penalized by or distanced from Him in some way. I would ask you to remember that the Scriptures are replete with admonitions about the requirement of obedience in order to receive the blessings of God. The forerunners of our faith understood what was required. Joshua, the inheritor of Moses’ leadership position, grasped the concept of obedience and service in order to receive the blessings of God:
“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).
The Prophet Samuel knew that obedience was far greater than sacrifice:
“Samuel said, ‘Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).
Yeshua makes it absolutely clear that if you love Him, you will obey His commandments:
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
This critical concept is confirmed by the Apostle John:
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:2-4).
If you are a part of the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) by faith in Messiah Yeshua, then you need to obey Him in order to receive His blessings. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, which is to be permeating your very being, this should be something that is not difficult—especially if our motivations for obeying God are a strong love for Him and wanting to please Him! As Paul put it,
“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET’ [Exodus 20:13-15, 17; Deuteronomy 5:17-19, 21], and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF’ [Leviticus 19:19]. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).
By reviewing texts like Ki-Tavo, we each have an opportunity to reconsider some of the choices we make when it comes to the commandments of God. The choice is ours. We can either have a blessed relationship with our Maker, or one that is constantly riddled with problems.
When you consider the list of blessings and curses in Deuteronomy ch. 28, it is easy to prefer the blessings to the curses. The difficult thing is obedience. Fortunately, the answer to obedience is found in the ministry examples of Messiah Yeshua, and can be attained by receiving Him into our lives and having our hearts and minds transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is my sincere prayer that you choose obedience to the Lord in order to receive His blessings, and thus be counted among those who are part of His people—a treasured possession!
 Consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Noahide Laws.”
 It is unavoidable that some Bibles have chosen to render the clause eis Christon, as “until Christ came” (Galatians 3:24, RSV/NRSV/ESV). For a detailed, exegetical analysis of this, consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Galatians 3:24, 25.”
 Consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Romans 10:4.”
 Grk. tēs politeais tou Israēl; “citizenship in Israel” (NIV); “the national life of Isra’el” (CJB).
Editor’s note: In some branches of today’s Messianic Judaism, notably those that advocate what they call a “bilateral ecclesiology,” non-Jewish Believers being a part of the Commonwealth of Israel is not quantitatively different from them being a part of a separate “Church” per Christian dispensational theology. Such a Commonwealth of Israel is simply thought to compose two groups: the Jewish people and the Church. The Greek term politeia is approached from the perspective of it being “commonwealth” like the British Commonwealth of Nations, as Yeshua is King over the Jewish people and the Church much like Queen Elizabeth II is monarch of independent countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.
The classical Greek meaning of politeia does not imply a kind of citizenship where a single monarch rules over a collection of separate states, but rather of either a single government or a way of conduct within a society (sometimes set within the context of a city). Cf. LS, 654; Plato Republic 10.619c; Aristotle Politics 3.6.1278b; 3.7.1279a; 2 Maccabees 8:17.
For a further analysis, consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Commonwealth of Israel.”
 Grk. dogma, “that which seems to one, an opinion, dogma” (LS, 207).
This related to various extra-Biblical instructions which were responsible for erecting the barrier wall in the Second Temple complex. For a further explanation of the clause ton nomon tōn entolōn en dogmasin, which may be understood as “the religious Law of commandments in dogmas,” consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Ephesians 2:14-15.”
 Grk. kainon anthrōpon.
 Consult the article “What is the New Covenant?” by J.K. McKee.